Don’t Be Like Me! Know Where to Find and How to Use Your Home Safety Equipment

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Having a home security system is savvy smart for a whole host of reasons: You deter potential burglars, get alerted in case of heat or smoke, and can even choose to have live video monitoring and home automation features. In addition to your home security system, you can take steps to keep your home safe from the outside in by taking steps such as ensuring good exterior lighting, cutting back any bushes that provide hiding places, etc.

Then there are other ways to keep your home safe from the inside out in case of an emergency, but the difference here is, while the home security company sets you up with your alarm and equipment and provides monitoring for you, all the other equipment is yours to acquire, maintain and know how to use.

In reviewing the list of recommended home safety equipment prior to writing this, I began to realize how little I know about using this equipment, or how lazy I am about it. So let’s use me as the classic example of someone who is only partly prepared—because owning the emergency equipment and being able to put it to use are two different things! Below you’ll see four basic pieces of home safety and emergency equipment listed, and how easy it can be to not have that equipment usable when needed…

Generator
OK, you can call me out on this one for sure. A generator is an important piece of home emergency equipment because it can keep electricity flowing in case of a power outage—and I don’t mean so you can watch that TV show. Consider medical equipment that has to keep running, for example. Or in our case, we raise a lot of our own food, and we usually have a freezer full of homegrown goodness by the time winter gets here. Aaaannnd…we have power outages. That’s why we have a generator—to keep the freezer running if we need to. So why has it been over five years since I have fired it up? I can’t tell you.

My husband has double-checked that it works on an annual basis, but if you asked me to go out and fire it up today, I would not know how. Don’t be like me. Make sure you know how to run your generator safely, and that your gas supply is good and handy (because your generator needs something to run on!).

I would add to that, know where and how you’ll set it up if needed. Since we haven’t used it yet in the two years since we moved to our current home, we haven’t done the logistics yet, knowing where we can safely set it up while easily plugging in the necessary electrical devices that must keep going. You don’t want to be lugging that heavy thing around and running extension cords hither and thither in the middle of a heavy windstorm—in the dark.

Fire extinguisher
Wow. Today is a day to face my failings! You can call me out on the fire extinguisher too. We have one, a fairly big one, and I know right where it is: in the mudroom next door to the kitchen, sitting on a bench. (I never did figure out where or how to hang it up.) Yet, I have no idea how to use it. If there is a fire, I will be the one standing there reading the directions while flames shoot up towards the ceiling, because the Murphy’s Law at our house is everything that goes wrong does so when my husband is gone.

Smoke alarms
Smoke alarms aren’t exactly equipment you need to know how to use. However, they need attention. Even if your smoke detectors are hardwired in your house, they need batteries in case of a power outage, and those batteries must be replaced either twice or once a year (depending on the source you check). And, hey, this is one category of home safety equipment I can handle! Except…I can’t tell you the last time I replaced the batteries. So mark that up as another fail.

Flashlights
You’re probably thinking, “Who doesn’t know how to work a flashlight? Who is this woman?” OK, I am not that pathetic. I do know how to work a flashlight. However, I recently could not find our big emergency flashlight that is normally kept in the kitchen, and two weeks went by before my neighbor commented to me one day, “Hey, I still have your flashlight.” I do not remember the circumstances that led to her having the flashlight, nor have I retrieved it from her yet.

And I needed it. The other night, I heard a ruckus outside, with a horse calling repeatedly and in an agitated way, and I headed out in my pajamas and rubber boots to check on the horses—without the big flashlight, because it is still at the neighbor’s. I had a portable lantern which was fine for shining light on the big guys (and they were fine), but that lantern did not help me at all to see the uneven ground as I stumbled along in the dark, half asleep and trying to find the horses in the back field. My lesson here is, know where the flashlight is. I also realized that night that while my daughter does have her emergency flashlight in her room (we all are supposed to have one by our beds), I do not, and I don’t know where that flashlight is either.

In addition to knowing where your flashlights are (and getting them back from your neighbors pronto if borrowed), have extra batteries and store them with the flashlights. If it’s dark and your flashlight is downstairs with no juice while the batteries are tucked away out in the garage somewhere, your flashlight won’t be any help. Is this advice I have put into practice? By now the answer shouldn’t surprise you: No.

I promise I am going to remedy these situations, and I hope that my sharing with you my lack of preparedness will encourage you to also take the next step with your home emergency equipment by knowing where it is, how to use it, and how to keep it supplied with whatever it might need to operate correctly for you (like batteries or gas).

So maybe next time, I can say “Do be like me!”

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I feel so much better knowing my family is protected! I spoke with SafeStreets USA in the evening and a technician was able to come install the system for me then for my parents first thing the next morning. Very impressed with his knowledge and care!

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